The morning of September 11th 2001 was beautiful and sunny, but so was September 10th, and that’s the day I was more interested in. That Monday my soccer team managed to defeat the Bishop Kearney Tigers on their own soccer field, built on top of an old garbage dump in Coney Island. The Kearney girls had won the year before, taking the CHSAA girls soccer title, so the Stella Maris Flippers beating them at home so early in the season meant a lot. That Tuesday our principal would announce the win over the loudspeaker and we’d tell our friends in the lunch room everything we’d done.
All of that happened—the announcement from the principal, the mild claps in homeroom, the feeling of pride from this small, all-girls high school, a scrappier and scruffier school than the others across the bridge. I had english first period with Mrs. McCrory. We were reading a poem about a Native American when that loudspeaker click came on again, the principals voice ready to make an announcement.
When she said a plane hit the World Trade Center (or maybe she called them the Twin Towers, I don’t remember now) my brain then went to the plane crash a week before, the one that killed Aaliyah, thinking it was a Cessna or another tiny plane that lost it’s way like that plane that hit the Empire State Building decades before.
“You can take out your cell phones and call your loved ones,” she said, especially if they work in Lower Manhattan. Cell phones were forbidden, but we all kept them hidden in our backpacks. She soon realized the cell phones wouldn’t work, and invited people down to the office.
And then people started talking, so to quiet us Mrs. McCrory told us to pray. I don’t remember exactly what she said.
Lots of things happened after that, memorable, moving things that I remember. All that false information floating around, not sure where it came from. My school on the beach suddenly became an target for all the planes that were supposedly hijacked, and I wondered why anybody would want to crash a plane into a bunch of high school kids, in a building on the ocean.
My mom, a teacher, signed me out of school a few hours later and brought me home and left me there as she went back to school to wait in case kids didn’t have parents to go home to. We went to church that night, knowing to go only by the ring of churchbells. When the priest asked people to yell out names of the missing so we could pray, the names—some repeated, most muffled—didn’t stop for half an hour.
But the moment that is clearest is the moment it all became real. When the bell rang to change classes, we all walked slowly out into the hallway, out into the big bay window that faced west. Standing there was our assistant principal, arms folded, moving us along, trying to shield us—while she had us, for a couple hours more— from the image we’d see the rest of our lives: black smoke on a skyline that suddenly seemed very far away.